Editor’s note: Call destinations before you visit to make sure they’re open. Stay posted on what Oregon’s phased reopening means for you. And remember to bring your face covering, as in Oregon face coverings are required for all public indoor spaces and outdoors when social distancing is not possible. Here’s what to know about Oregon’s outdoors right now.
From scenic picnics to rustic campouts, summer has always been about outdoor dining. In summer 2020, visitors to Oregon can expect far more al fresco choices now that restaurants are taking it to the streets to allow for more socially distant seating in the fresh air.
Brand-new city rules in busy areas like Portland, Ashland, Salem and other cities have allowed many restaurants to take over sidewalks and even parking spaces to accommodate more hungry diners. These new spaces are a way to help restaurants survive amidst Oregon’s new limited-capacity rules. They also offer more ways for visitors to support local restaurants.
As you get ready to enjoy these spaces, just remember that business reopenings are a work in progress. Before you venture out, please plan ahead; be patient, kind and flexible; and follow social-distancing rules and protocols outlined by each business. Don’t forget to tip well!
All year round, Portland’s famous food carts and outdoor-dining spots are part of the city’s culinary identity, so new sidewalk and patio seating during the lovely summer and fall weather makes perfect sense. Many of the newest outdoor spaces have popped up thanks to the city’s Healthy Businesses program, which has a searchable directory of outdoor-dining sites. Here are some of the top spots.
North Portland: In St. Johns, Stormbreaker Brewing has blocked off a side street and filled it with large tables and benches for guests to drink pints of the signature Cloud Ripper IPA. On North Mississippi, sidle up to the new sidewalk seating with beer, brats and pretzels at German biergarten Prost!. Or head one block over and visit sister bar Interurban, now with a couple of additional tables streetside so you can enjoy your fancy cocktail while people- and pet-watching.
Belmont: Beloved Russian restaurant Kachka has transformed into Kachka Alfresca by adding 29 tables to the upstairs parking lot, and it is now serving a new ’90s-inspired menu with fun, snacky dishes like jalapeno popper chicken Kiev and Totino’s Pizza Roll vareniki. Vegan-friendly Bare Bones Cafe & Bar has broken out the slushie machine and commandeered space in front and on the side of the corner building for wooden picnic tables.
Division: Part of Portland’s urban wine-tasting culture, Oui! Wine Bar and Restaurant has expanded its patio seating into the street with wine-barrel planters to green up the decor. Bollywood Theater, an Indian street-food restaurant, hasn’t resumed table service (yet), but you can enjoy your takeout orders on the patio. The same goes for Olympia Provisions Public House, where visitors can now enjoy locally made sausages and other meaty delights at tables expanded into their parking lot.
Portland’s closest-in Westside suburb is also getting creative with outdoor seating. Syndicate Wine Bar has added sidewalk seating and has set up umbrella-topped tables in the adjacent parking lot, and Ickabods Bar & Grill is making use of its front patio and has added a new roped-off seating section in the parking lot with picnic tables. Just a few blocks away, Boriken Restaurant, one of the only full-service Puerto Rican restaurants in the region, is also doing expanded sidewalk seating.
In the heart of Oregon wine country, McMinnville has introduced Dine Out(Side), closing 3rd Street to car traffic every weekend (starting at 5 p.m. on Fridays). The downtown avenue transforms into an outdoor dining plaza, with 20 restaurants serving their favorite dishes al fresco including local gems like Nick’s Italian Cafe and Gem Creole Saloon. Nearby the shaded patio and garden of Bistro Maison is another choice for outdoor dining.
On weekends Oregon’s capital city is closing portions of three streets in the downtown core to allow for more dining space. On State Street, you’ll find local favorites like Ritter’s Housemade Foods, which has added more outdoor sidewalk tables to enjoy an “Oregonzola” burger with rosemary fries. There’s also Wild Pear, for its reliable Northwest cuisine with Asian influences. Taproot Lounge & Cafe — known for healthy bowls, salads and smoothies — has expanded into parking spaces out front and has even added a DJ for a street-party atmosphere. Nearby Court Street is home to brunch destination The Kitchen on Court Street and Venti’s Cafe, where both have placed metal tables and chairs under the illuminated awnings that line the historic district.
As part of Grants Pass’ “Dine in the District” program, the city on the Rogue River is erecting barriers in parking spots downtown to create protected space for more outdoor tables. This summertime initiative is benefiting restaurants like Bohemian Bar & Bistro, a great spot for a glass of Rogue Valley wine on the new outdoor patio that stays open until 10 p.m., a little later than many in the area. Wine bar The Twisted Cork and The Haul, a gastropub around the corner, are also both great spots with newly expanded outdoor space.
Just south on Interstate 5, you can find plenty of ways to support local businesses in Ashland during the city’s socially distanced Ashland Summer Celebration, scheduled to run each weekend from July through the end of September. There’s a different theme each weekend, such as wellness, wine, the outdoors, art, music and harvest. Visitors can roam the main thoroughfare downtown during the celebrations since it will be closed to cars to open up outdoor dining. Look for notable Ashland restaurants like global small-plates specialist Brickroom Gathering House and MÄS, featuring inventive Cascadian cuisine.